Software developers who create apps for
) iOS platform have had a fairly easy go of things.
Thanks to Apple's highly regulated "walled garden," iOS apps have
been built upon a very standard and very consistent set of design
elements and guidelines that remained relatively unchanged since
the platform's launch in 2007. Actionable items such as menu
buttons and setting toggles maintained a uniformity that not only
kept apps looking consistent but also familiarized users with a
standard interface that spanned across Apple's entire mobile
), which have each undergone at least one major overhaul of their
respective operating systems in the years since their launch, iOS
stayed the course and never instituted an interface change that
forced developers to rethink and redesign their work.
That is, up until a few weeks ago.
This month saw Apple unveil its long overdue revamp to its mobile
platform in iOS 7. Sporting a brand-new look and feel with design
elements that change the way users interact with their devices, iOS
7 presents a brand-new set of challenges that developers had yet to
encounter while working within Apple's wholly consistent ecosystem.
While the overhaul finally modernizes iOS' admittedly stale look
and introduces features that have become indispensable for users on
competing mobile platforms, iOS developers have to put in extra man
hours and make some difficult choices in order to adapt to Apple's
latest platform changes.
Anyone who caught the keynote presentation at this year's WWDC
already knows the animosity Apple now has toward skeuomorphic
design. Any app which replicates a real-world element -- such as
stitched leather on a calendar app or green felt in a poker game --
will definitely have to switch up its look to something cleaner and
flatter. Even if interactivity remains relatively the same, new
graphics and iconography will pose new work that many developers
hadn't faced since launching their apps on iOS.
But even after getting a new look, changing interactivity to keep
it in line with iOS 7 could be detrimental to the consistent flow
an app has enjoyed since its inception. A feature-heavy app like
Evernote will find itself undergoing massive changes to adhere to
iOS 7 design guidelines, and even if it succeeds, users will be
presented with a fresh interface that might not jibe with their
particular workflow. Sure, every complaint about new design lends
itself to a "you'll get used to it" retort, but few developers
who've fought to maintain a familiar look want to throw in a new
learning curve that could potentially steer users toward a
Instapaper founder Marco Arment didn't mince words concerning how
this could affect some of the bigger names in the app world. "I
don't think most developers of mature, non-trivial apps are going
to have an easy time migrating them well to iOS 7." He added, "Even
if they overcome the technical barriers, the resulting apps just
won't look and feel right. They won't fool anyone."
But iOS 7 adds a problem that we've really only heard about with
regards to Android: fragmentation.
Along with adapting to the different screen sizes of iPhones and
iPads -- as well as the different dimensions between an iPhone 5
and earlier iPhone models -- developers must decide whether to
support backwards compatibility with iOS 6. Although iOS benefits
from system-wide updates that the majority of users with capable
devices will readily install, anyone with an iPhone older than two
years will be unable to use the new operating system and, thus,
won't be able to install any app designed specifically for it.
That leaves developers with two options: They can bid iOS 6 users a
cold goodbye and forge headlong into iOS 7 territory, or they can
add yet another version to their software list and maintain updates
for versions running iOS 6, iOS 7, pre-iPhone 5 dimensions,
post-iPhone 5 dimensions, and iPad dimensions. Granted, it's
nothing like the multitude of different designs spanning the
Android landscape, but for a platform that prides itself on
consistency and system-wide updates, it's another headache for
By and large, analysts and users are thrilled to see Apple finally
update its iOS platform, but its success depends on how quickly
(and how adeptly) developers adapt to its totally new set of
We'll just have to wait and see how many will survive the migration
and how many are willing to bring older users along for the ride.
Disclosure: Minyanville Studios, a division of Minyanville
Media, has a business relationship with BlackBerry.
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